In the past few months, I have become increasingly sensitive to something that has been getting overlooked when buying a home. The reason for this is I have seen two very serious cases of this. If there was ever a case to file a complaint this should be it.
My daughter was having severe migraines and getting regular facet blocks in her neck. While she was in recovery one day, I struck up a conversation with her neuro-radiologist. You could probably tell from her title that this was a woman who was smart and who had gone to school for a very long time; she had to have been at the top of her game to get the degree she did. Education was a clear priority in her life. She asked me what I did, and I told her I was a real estate broker. “Can I pick your brain?” she asked me.
Well, she’d taken such good care of my daughter that I would have given her a kidney if she’d asked. “By all means,” I said. The neuro-radiologist told me that she and her husband (a pediatric cardiology surgeon, by the way) had two children ages 3 and 5, and had moved to Houston 18 months prior. They had applied to all the private schools and had gotten turned down by every one. “Those schools only take siblings and legacies for lower school” I assured her. She and her husband had bought a home in a nice neighborhood, but one that didn’t have the best schools. “I saw online that the schools were rated as “Acceptable,” said the neuro-radiologist, a look of consternation on her face. “Do you think that’s okay for our kids? Or should we have bought something elsewhere?” “What did your real estate agent tell you?” I asked her.
She shrugged. “She never mentioned schools. But now we sort of want to move.” I couldn’t believe what she was saying. I thought to myself—her real estate agent should be sued for malpractice. Obviously, education is a huge driving force in this family’s life, and you sell them a house with “Acceptable” school ratings? And now, fast-forward 18 months, they have to move to a new neighborhood because of the crappy schools. I tried to break the news gently. “Real estate agents don’t always consider everything that they should,” I said. “I had to start work within a month,” said this mild-mannered doctor regretfully. “We had to pick a home quickly. I thought that real estate agents were supposed to be experts! It’s like, when they call me into the operating room, there’s nothing I’m not considering about the patient—why isn’t it like that with real estate?”
“I’m not sure,” I told her. “I’m really sorry. I always tell my clients that buying a house is like picking a spouse. You have to think pretty far ahead into the future.”
The Questions An Agent Might Not Ask are the most important ones!
Do you have kids? Do you want to have kids? Are you going to have more kids? Do you need to consider school districts? Have your kids been in the same private school forever, and you couldn’t care less about your school district? Are your kids moving out for good? Or, do kids scare you and you know you never want to have them? Are you close to your workplace? Do you absolutely detest commuting, or are you happy to go for a cheaper neighborhood and drive an hour to work every day? Maybe commuting de-stresses you—I have a few clients (mostly lawyers, interestingly enough) who feel that way. Is there a possibility that your parents might be moving in at any point? Do they have any health conditions that would require a one-story, or a house with a full bath downstairs? If buying a house is like picking a spouse, looking for a house is like dating. It’s really easy to get swept away by the beautiful marble countertop, the huge backyard, and all other forms of glitz. But a house, like a spouse, is an enormous and long-term commitment. You need to think about the future and ask yourself the questions that may not be sexy but are far more important than the chandelier in the dining room. Before you say, “I do,” you need to use common sense as well as your emotional leanings. Sure, love is blind, but this isn’t the time for it! I have seen so many real estate ads that say, “Buy with your heart, not your head.” Well, consider the source and the motivation for that statement: it’s all about that commission.